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Buddhist Leader to Visit North Korea

Yonhap News, May 27, 2005

SEOUL, South Korea -- The leader of the South Korea's largest Buddhist sect may visit North Korea in mid-June for celebrations of the fifth anniversary of the inter-Korean summit, the Chogye Order said Friday.

Rev. Bub Jang, executive director of administration of the Chogye Order of Korean Buddhism, told a group of U.S. policymakers during his visit to Washington that he plans to visit North Korea on June 15 and meet Pyongyang officials, including leader Kim Jong-il, it said.

If the visit is realized, he will make the trip on June 15, the anniversary, in his capacity as chairman of the national council of religious leaders comprising the nation's seven largest religions, Chogye officials said.

Bub Jang was quoted as saying that if he visits the North Korean capital, he will relay to leaders in Pyongyang the U.S. government's message that it does not have any hostile intention toward the North.

The Chogye Order has pushed for its leader's visit to the North since late last year. He is known to have conveyed such intentions when he met recently with Unification Minister Chung Dong-young.

The two Koreas have agreed to hold joint events next month to celebrate the anniversary of the historic summit on June 15, 2000, between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Under an agreement reached during last week's inter-Korean talks, Seoul will send Cabinet members led by Chung to the ceremonies in Pyongyang on June 14-17.

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